Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Colourfull Northlights

Colourful Northlights

How about this for a modelling challenge?

Spotted on a visit to the Custard Factory in Birmingham, these Northlight ex-factory buildings have been decorated with serious arty graffiti.

Scratchbuilding the building sides wouldn't be difficult, although that chimney would be "interesting", but painting? I think I might have to pass. Maybe I could make transfers from photos? 

Whether you like this sort of art or not, you have to admit, it is colourfull...

Colourful Northlights 2

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Clamping curved things

Clamping curved bits of boats while the glue dries is always a bit of a nightmare. I have wasted many hours trying to persuade a pair of flat-faced and parallel jaws to hold things while they decide to slip off just when I think I've arranged them in a way that works.

My dad is building a ferry and hit the same problem. His solution was simple.

A big blob of Blu-tack on the jaws and then some worn out abrasive paper. This worked a treat, the paper providing enough grip and the Blu-tack helps sort out the angles. I'll remember this in future. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Building a radio control switch

Club membership is very useful sometimes. All these new-fangled 2.4mHz radio sets we now use support 5 or more channels rather than the 2 from the "good old days". Most of the time I only use 2, but it seems a waste. One use for the extras would be switching lights on and off.

This needs a bit of electronic and luckily, Brian from our club has put together a course to show members how to build one.

I arrived expecting a couple of hours soldering but instead, we had the works - slides, handouts and even boards full of components for us to look at and learn how to identify.

By the end of the morning, we'd learnt a lot and then it was time to fire up the soldering irons to build our switches. Brian's design is simple to follow and well laid-out on a custom circuit board.

Being a proficient solderer, I had mine together in just over an hour, but even the beginners managed it in 2. There was a testing procedure and by the end of the day, 5 of the 6 attendees held working devices. The final one was taken away and a faulty resistor diagnosed.

I can't speak highly enough of the efforts put into this course. You'd happily pay good money to attend and not feel ripped off. As it was, we just paid for the components and enjoyed ourselves. I've not bought a couple more packs as I really fancy more light-up boats.

Did I learn anything?

Yes - how to identify resistors (I sort of knew this but now am more confident) and how to use desoldering braid, something that has always defeated me in the past.

So, if you are a "lone wolf" who doesn't like joining clubs, can I suggest it's time to reconsider. There is a benefit from being in the pack.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Judging photos for Bachmann

A couple of months ago, I spent a few hours at Bachmann's Leicestershire HQ.

My first job was to return the G scale Thomas train set I'd borrowed for the Peterborough show, but it wasn't the main reason for my visit.

I'd been invited to judge the annual Collectors Club photography competition.

Sat in a darkened room with club supremo Richard Proudman, we looked at the entries for each category projected on a big screen.

The process was a little like going for an eye test. The bit where they try two lenses and you have to decide between the results. The differences are subtle, and I always wonder if I've given the right answer.

Here, we had some really excellent photographs and needed to chose between them.

Each class was reduced to 3 images and then we looked more critically to decide a winner. Every time, any of these, and often some of the others already passed over, would have been a worthy winner.

Looking at the results in the Spring 2019 issue of the excellent club magazine, I'm happy with the choices - but kudos to every entrant. You certainly made me work for my lunch!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday Film Club: A trip around Barmouth Junction

Sit back and take a trip around Geoff Taylors model, Barmouth Junction. The model includes a mix of scenic station scenes and hidden track - most of which is a complete mystery to the operators. I've never worked it out while I'm there!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Railmail wagon

One for the extinct model shops collection - a Graham Farish OO gauge wagon in Railmail livery.

Younger modellers will be surprised that Grafar produced in OO, the name now being attached to N gauge exclusively. They did, producing locos (including a Black 5 with an amazing mechanism in the tender), coaches and wagons.

According to the Interweb, Railmail was the biggest model railway mail-order box-shifters in the late 1970s and early 80s but went bust in 1986.

Can anyone confirm this?  Other than seeing adverts in old magazines, I don't remember the firm at all but would like to know more. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Garden Rail - April 2019 - No. 296

Garden Rail hits the shelves today and as usual, we've an interesting mix of articles.

The main feature is the Kittatinny Mountain Railroad, built by Shawn Viggiano, a really good looking logging railroad. I worry that these can look a bit "samey" but this is great on the page thanks to Shawn supplying us with loads of photos so the designer could do a cracking job.

We've got a bit more variety in scale too with both G1 and G3 being represented. I've had to work a bit to do this and am pleased that all my legwork is starting to pay off. As the only newsstand large scale railway modelling magazine, we need to cover as many bases as possible and provide a wide variety of content.

One of my favourites is "Smurf" - the story of an ugly duckling where Mark Hill details a Tri-ang "Big-Big" steam loco. The result looks nice and there are some useful techniques demonstrated along the way.

Another set of interesting techniques come from Eric Londesburgh making buildings out of pottery clay. Weatherproof and surprisingly detailed, it's not something I'd read before but if you fancy having a go, this is more achievable than you might expect.

Full content listing on RMweb

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Door protection

Some interesting details spotted in Birmingham last weekend - protective lumps for the corner of warehouse doors. Presumably to stop drivers whacking them as they come in and out. Cast iron lumps being cheaper than shoring up a wall. Again. 

There doesn't appear to be a standard design so they could be made out of anything round that is sanded to shape and then the rear quarter removed with a small file. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Minitrains Marvel

Take a bow, Minitrains Plymouth Diesel. 

Two days solid running - well over 14 hours - without a murmur. 

OK, I did give it a dose of light oil, but then it hadn't turned a wheel for several years. After some running, the lubrication reduced any noise to next to nothing. 

Pretty impressive I think. If you are in the market for a 009 diesel, I recommend it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The return of the Handyman Hall Railway

The Handyman Hall railway

For the Leamington Show, I dug The Handyman Hall railway out of storage. Despite not having seen the light of day for at least 5 years, it is looking pretty good. One loose figure and some discoloured varnish were all the problems found. 

The figure was quickly glued in place, the varnish issue ignored (I pretend it's a running water effect if asked) and after a quick track clean, it was good to go. Testing showed that an L&B loco didn't have a chance on the tight curves, but any of my 4-wheel models were fine. 

Power came from a  Beatties controller which apart from a slightly sloppy direction switch, works perfectly still. Plenty of God's own DC available all weekend.  

An amusing moment came when a youngster picked me up on the rescue boat. He identified an RNLI D Class lifeboat and pointed out it would only be used offshore. I excused myself by saying it was a lifeboat day and they were demonstrating it. 

Actually, the model is a pencil topper which isn't a bad match for 4mm scale figures, if a little short. It's bright orange though, so I like it. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

L&WMRS show 2019

Phils stand

A busy weekend for me at Leamington. With my club member rather than writer hat on, I'd been asked for a display of small layouts and dioramas.

Setting up in the special area that's an odd shape for anyone else with 3 small layouts (Melbridge Parva, Melbridge Box Company and The Handyman Hall Railway) plus a few static displays. The plan was to talk micro layouts and explain that a huge space isn't required to get into the hobby.

And that's pretty much what I did all weekend. It was 3:30 on Saturday before I stopped gabbing and much of Sunday wasn't much quieter. With all that talking, I didn't get to see the show other than outside opening times.

James Street station

Normally, my favourite layout will be something in a weird scale and tiny. Not this time, it is the N gauge layout James Street. Regrettably, I didn't get to watch this amazing model work. Nor can I work out how I've not spotted it before at a show. I definitely want to get a proper look in the future.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saturday Film Club: A trip to the Hornby visitor centre

Well, you'll have seen a little of the Hornby visitor centre and be gagging for a proper look around in the company of two well-respected model railway aficionados. 

If you find such a film, let me know. In the meantime, Andy York and I take a look. And since he edited the video, my efforts with the Scalextric are less accurately recorded than they should have been...

Friday, March 08, 2019

German kit

Perhaps this isn't a surprise to many modellers, but I'd never seen a German version of the classic Airfix platform fittings kit before the weekend, and couldn't resist snapping a photo. 

I could resist snapping it up (the stallholder for the Kitmaster Collectors Club was happy for me to take a picture) for my collection. £20 might be a good price, but not for a kit that will forever remain in its bag.   

Neustadt translates into "Newtown" apparently. On the British version, the town was "Oakham". 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Weathering fit for a layout wagon

To finish off the coal wagon, a bit of weathering. 

I could have got out the airbrush and spent hours with Maskol making rust patches, but I think that is overkill most of the time. Don't get me wrong, done well these effects are brilliant, but for this model, I'm aiming for a generally dirty look rather than a specimen model. I want it to blend into the crowd. 

So, the first stage was a wash of thinned black paint. Once dry, a dry-brush with dark grey over the underframe. Then more dry-brushing with track colour and a bit of rust. Work quickly and the colours blend so nothing stands out. 

Finally, a dust with weathering powder. Quite a bit of Humbrol Smoke, but also dark brown. I work over a plastic tray which gradually fills with mixed powder and am happy to use this as well. Somehow there is a hint of green in there at the moment and it actually works on the model. Not much you understand, just a hint. 

And there we have it. A wagon fit for my layout. Easily achievable, nothing special in the way of materials or tools required either. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Henley in-Arden delivery office

Henley-in-Arden Post Office

It's a long way from Henley-in-Arden's most beautiful building, but tucked in a back street, this entrance to the sorting office is very modellable and reeks of the early post-war period. Take away the Post Office signs and it could fit into any industrial setting. 

Getting the details right would be the key - look at the doorways for a start, they aren't complicated but neither are they plain. The lower level of the wall appears different to the rest and modellers wouldn't make the ground fall away like this, we'd drop it on a flat baseboard. 


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Real or chopped?

Last week, I found myself wandering around the canals in central Birmingham. There, I spotted this boat. And I found myself wondering if it is a real, very short vessel, or a cut'n'shut to decorate a short spur.

If it is a modified boat, this seems a lot of work to do for such an unconvincing result - which makes me think it must be real. But if it is, why? There doesn't seem to be any way of towing a lighter, which I'd expect for a tug, the only sort of boat I can think of that would be this short.

Any ideas out there? If it helps, there is an aerial view on Google Maps.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Fitting Sprat & Winkle couplings

I thought I'd fit some S&W couplings to the layout wagons - they are what I use on layout after all!

First, you need a setting up track.

 This is mine, and it must be well over 25 years old. At one end there is a support for the coupling bar so these are at a consistent height. In the middle a magnet for testing and some wires in case I want to run a loco along its short length.

I start by glueing a de-headed dressmakers pin to the buffers. Yes, I know it should be a length of wire and that should emerge from the buffer beam in a U-shape, but this is "quick'n'dirty" coupling fitting. Not finescale, but it works, especially on tight curves where the wire on buffers method allows the coupling hook maximum side slideage.

Superglue is the adhesive for this job. A blob on each bufferhead and then roll the wagon up to the jig on which the pin is balanced.

Next, the hook. This is released from the fret, bent to shape and chemically blackened. You can use paint, but it will chip off. Guess how I know this...

The instructions suggest some bent wire but that never worked for me. Instead, a re-bent staple is pushed through the plastic floor with a soldering iron. Quick, simple and reliable. Practise on a bit of plastic sheet until you get the hang of this.

Once in, the tails inside the wagon with some cutters and you can be confident the thing won't fall out. With practice, you can even re-heat the staple to adjust it. 

Finally, some testing. The chain is attracted by the magnet, pulling the coupling hook down. The chai is from the EM Gauge Society. Not sure if it's still available as I bought several feet years ago and haven't used it all up yet.

Fitting these takes minutes but I find them 90% reliable in use and very robust.

Sprat & Winkle couplings come from Wizard Models.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

A sunny day at Butterley


Garden Rail hat on, I spent last Sunday at the Butterley Garden Railway as I'd been asked to give a talk at their AGM.

Arriving early, I enjoyed watching a fine variety of locos running on the two circuits. With the public standing on the other side of the fence, the pressure is on to keep something running to provide entertainment - and they did this with aplomb!

After I had done my bit and while the official AGM was taking place, I snuck outside to give the pair of battery electrics I'd brought along a good run. I need to make sure I have some reliable locos in a couple of months so with the lower level track to myself I let them loose. All went well, but some of the rails were a bit greasy and one loco could really do with a bit more weight if it's going to haul trains reliably. Nothing difficult to fix and I'm glad I found out now.

Double headed diesels

My solution for the long(ish) train was simply to double-head. While the motors speeds are far from matched, this seemed to work, even on the sticky section at the back of one of the loops. Progress was swifter than I'd expected too, but still not up to mixing it with the steam engines. 

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Saturday Film Club: The Never Stop Railway

An interesting little film that appeared on social media earlier this week - The never stop "railway" demonstration at Southend-on-Sea in 1923.

According to the NRM, who own the footage, this is from the William Yorath-Lewis Collection.

There is a contemporary description here. 

Two years later, there was another demonstration at Wembley.

In 1925, the line carried 2 million passengers without cost (to the passengers) or interuption.

And finaly, how about a Meccano version? 

Friday, March 01, 2019

Off to Leamington this weekend

A nice short trip this weekend - into town to display at my club's show. 

I'm taking some micro layouts and small dioramas which will be on show inside the foyer. I'll be there both days all being well and happy to chat about all aspects of layout building, so do come along!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

3D printing, Billy Bookcases and 2 layout shoots in BRM

A real find in BRM this month - Steve Bell's amazing layout "Waltham Wharf". Spotted at Llanfair show last year, although it turns out I had seen it a couple of years earlier. This is the sort of large scale layout making use of its size for detail that I've dreamed of. 

Steve is a really nice guy and has done a terrific job modelling an interesting 18 inch gauge prototype in 16mm scale. We dragged him and the layout into our studio where I shot both stills and some video. 

While talking about layout shoots, I also took pictures of Mike Corp's 3mm scale layout "Heybridge Wharf" - 2 years ago! The delay was because Mike had already agreed to let MRJ showcase the layout first and so we had to wait. Not to worry, I think the results are worth it. 

Regular readers know I have a history in 3mm modelling and Mike's is very much my sort of model railway layout. It has boats on for a start (and cutting out around the rigging did frustrate me!) and is full of small locos. 

Despite being busy with the camera, I've been practical too. We have part 2 of the 3D printing escapades. 

This month I'm determined to find projects for the printer that I'm happy with - and I think I manage it. The key to doing this sort of thing is matching the tool with the job. I'm happy I managed, so happy that I've bought the printer, so look out for more stuff on here soon!

Finally, I have a new project, or rather, 3 new projects. 

I'm going to build a series of layouts that will fit on the shelves of an Ikea Billy bookcase. Each will use new materials and techniques to me and hopefully be a useful experiment for those following my efforts. Micro layouts are very popular nowadays and make idea magazine subjects as you can produce a lot of photos reasonably quickly and therefore write up more techniques than a large model would alow for. 

Anyway, I've plenty of small locos knocking around, so I'm not going to build a mainline station am I? 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Hawkes Farm

Hakes Farm long barn

This week a series of photos showing Hawkes Farm - especially the "modern" barns that look very modelable. 

Now sitting in the middle of a housing estate, the site will soon disappear under more executive homes. Pity, as it would be perfect for me with all that barn space. Still, I'm no good at the lottery...

Hakes Farm small barn

Anyway, before the bulldozers move in, I had a wander around to try and capture as much as I could in case these pictures help someone. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Layout wagons Part 2 - Lettering

(Photo: Andy York)

Sometimes my model making has had to be done on the cheap and while buying wagon kits wasn't too much of a problem, at least for the little layouts I build, sheets of transfers have been a step too far. I'm sure these have become relatively cheaper over the years!

I also hate applying the things. Fiddling around for ages trying to make rows of numbers line up is not my idea of fun.

So, I developed the idea that as long as the basic shapes were OK, you could get away with wagon numbering applied by brush. I wouldn't do this for a loc, but most people don't scrutinise wagons as closely. Since they will be on the end of a good weathering, this hides things even more.

This can be seen in the photo above. The letters and numbers are a long way from perfect but on the layout, with things moving around and so much to look at, hardly anyone spots it. A good result and since pots of Humbrol 147 are cheaper than transfers, a saving for me.

More recently, I realised that Geoff Kent was doing a similar thing. He applies his wagon numbering with a mapping pen and white ink.

Well, if it's good enough for finescale royalty, it's good enough for me.

A trip to an art shop furnished me with the requisite tool and material and for the last few years, I've been learning penmanship skills. OK, I'm a looooongway from Geoff's abilities, but it's a step up from what I did before, still cheap and once weathered, will look fine.

Even when the effects of the rhubarb cider have worn off. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Layout wagons Part 1

Needing a couple of wagons for filming a few weeks ago, I dug in the back of the cupboard and pulled out some Parkside kits - a 25.5ton coal wagon and plywood sided van.

After a pleasant evening sticking them together - I'd forgotten just how much simply assembling these kit is - they were ready for the studio and fulfilled their role admirably.

Back home I was left with two part-finished models and rather than just stick them back in the cupboard as they were, decided to finish them off so at least they can go in the stock box.

I'm going to finish these as what I call "layout wagons".

The best looking model railways, in my opinion, and since this is my blog that's the one that matters, have a consistent standard applied across the whole scene. It annoys me immensely to read a whinge about some tiny detail on a new RTR product, when I can't believe that the writer has built the rest of their layout to the same breathtakingly high standards they are thundering about.

Far better, to pick a lower standard you can work to, and stick to it. This philosophy comes with the added benefit that as long as a loco runs, it's probably going to look fine if manufactured in the last 20 year. Better still, you can build a kit and it will fit right in.

 (Photo: Mike Wild)

I'm not going to claim that Melbridge Dock is the greatest layout ever built, but one thing I was always praised for was consistency. Everything is equally dirty and built a similar standard and I think this works.

So, these wagons aren't going to be the most detailed in the world. I'm not replacing all the underframes and fiddling with the bodies too much, but I bet that on the majority of layouts, no-one would even notice.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Doncaster 2019 - The photos


Last week, I brought you my Vlog from Doncaster but didn't have time to edit the still photos to go with it. 

These are now available on Flickr for you. Sadly, not my best selection as I was a bit tight for time, but there were some cracking models on show. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Saturday Wireless Club: Experimental Podcast

Something different this week - audio.

A few weeks ago, I went to an interesting session on podcasting (downloadable audio presentations, sort of like radio) and came away enthused about the possibilities for model railway news and stuff.

To cut a long story short, Andy York and I had a go. We've included an interview with Barry from Missenden Railway Modellers and Richard Davies from Hattons, that later looking at Brexit and how (if) it will affect his business.

The link below takes you to RMweb to download and listen. If I link that way we get some useful statistics and can decide if the idea has legs. Comments welcome.

The inaugural BRM Podcast. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Hornby R9060 radio control unit

With my love of Hornby operating accessories, the R9060 radio control unit has long been on my list for the collection.

Introduced in 2001 (I think), the set comprises an American style cabin into which is plugged the transformer and also provides screw outputs for track power. Inside this is the speaker for train sounds.

The handset has 4 buttons, faster, slower, stop and sound. It's a plastic box containing a 9V PP3 battery.

I picked my set up for £12 second hand - they still command reasonable money but I'm far too stingy for this, even if I do have a real use in mind.

For this sort of cash, there were a few issues. The battery connector in the handset failed almost immediately, but a replacement was easy to fit even with soldering required.

Inside the hut, the aerial screws needed to be tightened up.

Wired up to a H&M rolling road, I tried it out with a Bachmann Junior loco that we must never say looks a lot like Thomas.

The results were disappointing. The range for the 26mHz system seems to be measured in inches - about 3, possibly 6 with a fresh PP3.

The loco runs in one direction only and takes an age to wind up speed.

The sound is quite fun though. I don't think the DCC guys are going to be worried about this! Looking on-line, there are 2 versions of this set. The one I have was sold as a separate unit for finescale modellers, there is also a Thomas version that plays the TV theme tune.

I'll admit that some of the issues might be related to this being a second-hand unit and not working properly - surely the range should be better and we ought to get reverse?

Never mind, it's a bit of fun - and that's what this sort of thing is all about.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

L-Cut Creative 2-tier paint tray

I like toolboxes and spotted this nice little paint organiser on the L-Cut Creative stand at Doncaster. £7.99 buys an easy to assemble kit for a 2-level tray.

All the parts are laser cut from plywood. This has a slightly rough surface and benefitted from sanding on the faces to smooth things off. The parts lock together well with only a little PVA in the joins being enough to hold them. The centra handle keeps everything inline and stops the trays falling off while you carry them.

24 Humbrol pots are a tight fit into each level. I'm wondering about using them for small tools on the workbench as at 195 by 142mm, there should be space for all those regularly used items that don't make it back into the drawer.

Should you want a taller tray, a 5 tier version is available.

2 layer tray from L-Cut.

 Note: I paid for this tray myself. To be honest, I'd spent a day at the show and not aquired any toys so decided to purchase something fun to assemble. It was a good move.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Architectural Salvage

In the south end of Leamington, on a road called Batch Place, there used to be a church. It became a community centre and then someone set fire to it.

Rather than restore the building to its original state, it's been turned into flats. The roofline has largely been preserved but it's obviously a new building. One nice touch I spotted is the inclusion of some original windows in the ends. They are unglazed, but a welcome link to the old church.

I wonder if modellers could pinch this feature? There are lots of nice mouldings for church windows out there. Perhaps an interesting addition to a modern model?